Written by Lydia Robledo Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00
Westbury Okinawan Karate recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary of coming to the Westbury Recreation Center. Since then, the dojo has trained 250 students, ages six and up, in the art of karate with the style of traditional Okinawan ShorinRyu Shidokan.
Founded by sensei John Power, the classes seek to instill the confidence and strength needed to obtain success in everyday life.
“A lot of kids are lacking confidence,” said Power. “We let them practice leadership in the class and this contributes to their confidence.
We have a lot of bowing going on during the class and being respectful toward each other.”
Power was in his 50s when he first became acquainted with the Japanese discipline sport while visiting a class at a YMCA across the street from his engineering job. He recalls that at first it was just something to do on his lunch breaks, but he quickly advanced.
“I kept going through the ranks. By the time I retired, I was a third-degree black belt,” Power said.
The color and degree of the belts (kyu and dan) are used to signify the student’s progress in their study with the student starting at a white belt, 10th kyu, and working up to the final level of a black belt, 10th dan.
“When I first got my black belt, I was 60 years old, and that’s unusual because everyone else was is in their 20s. That was pretty exciting,” Power said.
After retiring from his engineering job in 2002, Power began using his karate leadership skills to teach students at another dojo held in Little Neck. Soon after, he became the primary sensei of Westbury Okinawan Karate, held at Westbury Recreation Center.
“In Westbury, we started with a couple of kids, started getting our bearings on learning how to handle them, and then it grew from there,” said Aniello Discala, the assistant sensei.
Discala, who has been alongside Power since the dojo opened, said she enjoys working with Power.
“He’s very dedicated and he really likes karate. He’s good with the kids and very detailed, which is good for karate,” Discala said. “He helped me bring more out in myself. When I went from a white belt, he taught me a lot of the material and dedication to keep with it.”
Looking back on the past decade, Discala has recognized the rewards of their joint efforts. “It’s nice when you see them grow,” she said.
For Power, the most rewarding part of the job is working with kids and seeing them develop and grow.
“It’s one of the few discipline sports left,” Power said. “We show each other respect.”
Christina Bonaparte, a 12-year-old member of one of Power’s classes states, “It’s exciting and it does discipline you. It teaches you self defense which I like to have.” Of Power’s teaching style, she comments, “He’s strict but it allows me to do what I have to do and not fool around.”
13-year-old Kiarra Richardson, who has been practicing karate for four years, has the highest belt in the class with a 4th degree junior black belt.
“John Power teaches you that you have to focus. He’s really strict but he’ll help you with whatever you need to get done,” Richardson said.
For more information and to sign up for a class, visit westburykarate.com.